Erik's Highlights: Brewing in Bokrijk & Herkenrode

BOKRIJK/HERKENRODE - On Sunday, 15th September Bokrijk Open Air Museum will host a special event at which you can discover everything edible and drinkable in the wild world of flora and fauna.

You’ll witness demonstrations of boiling syrup or brewing beer, the latter in the historic brewing installation at the open air museum. There is also a large market selling regional products with over 60 stalls.


The Paenhuys is an authentic 17th century village brewery in Diepenbeek near Hasselt. Until 1700 the villagers brewed their own beer there. Nowadays the brewery is located in Bokrijk Open Air Museum.

How did people brew in those days? First, water was pumped into the walled-in, heated brewing kettle.

Secondly, the heated water was transferred to the mixing basin (sometimes called the sediment basin) using buckets.

In this tub the bashed malt was turned over using large stirring forks, or 'roervorken'. Hot water was added at regular intervals to maintain the right temperature. The next stage was filtering the wort.

Initially spoons were used but in later years the villagers were to adopt the ‘stuikmand’, a type of basket that filtered out the ‘draf’ – the rough parts of the wort without any further use.

The liquid was boiled up once again, now with the addition of hops. This wort and hops mixture was then transferred to the large wooden cooling basin – 'het koelschip' – to cool down and clarify. Subsequently the beer spent time fermenting in the yeast basin; it matured and then underwent a second fermentation.

Yeast cells and other floating particles were filtered out through a linen bag and the beer was then poured into barrels.

Tomsin brewery from Hoegaarden was responsible for kitting out the Paenhuys. Tomsin is where Hoegaarden-born brewer Pierre Celis learnt his trade before founding De Kluis in 1966.

A hop field was established near the Abele farm in the grounds of the open air museum. You will also find a traditional ‘hopast’ – a drying oven for hops – which was originally used in Proven near Poperinge.

There is more to see and do at Bokrijk Open Air Museum than the old brewery visit. Bokrijk will blast you back to the past, the huge estate is filled with examples of old and authentic buildings from across Belgium. The peaceful green surroundings are also perfect for walking and cycling.


Herkenrode is another place that transports you back through the ages in no time at all. From the Hasselt-West turnoff on the E313 you cannot fail to spot the imposing silhouette of the former Herkenrode Abbey. The current buildings go back to the 17th century but traces of occupation have been found dating from 1182.

Jef Cornelissen of Brewery Cornelissen in Opitter harboured plans to launch an abbey beer. The operation was managed by Robert Putman, former engineer-brewmaster at Cristal-Alken.

His brief was to ‘brew a beer with the robustness of the Counts of Loon, the elegance of the abbesses of Herkenrode and the aromas from the herb garden’. From 2009 onwards, Herkenrode has been producing its own ‘recognised’ abbey beers, the Herkenrode Tripel and Bruin. To be recognized a beer must show a demonstrable link with the past and indeed, the abbey used to have its own brewery.

Herkenrode is situated 5 km from Hasselt in a gorgeous, natural 100 hectare reserve that is ideal for walking and cycling.

More Information

Bokrijk Open Air Museum
Bokrijklaan 1

Telephone: +32 (0) 11 265 300
Fax: +32 (0) 11 265 370